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Hacking the Pool Phone

by Michael Greifenkamp (June 25th, 2004)

Much to my initial dismay, the home that we purchased several years ago came with an inground container for 28,000 gallons of chlorinated water. I still think that owning a pool in the midwest is about as silly as owning a convertible in the midwest--for the same seasonal reasons. However, the kids enjoy it and I must admit that I have been known to take a dip or two myself.

Well, in the 1970s when our house was built, cordless phones were yet to appear in everyone's household. Not wanting to miss any calls, the folks that originally inhabited our abode had a heavy-duty phone line run under the concrete patio and into the crawl space. Out by the pool there is an all-weather phone jack, and above it a small "phone house" that had been home to an old yellowed phone. Since I can walk halfway across town while talking on a modern cordless phone, I decided it was time to retire the "phone house." (Besides, it needed a new roof...)

I was going to remove the line and simply lop off the wooden post that was the base of the house, but then I got to thinking... "Can't I run 10base-T over a phone line?" Hmmm......

My first attempt, I must admit, failed. And I am still not sure why it did not work. I tried to cheat and use the existing phone jack, and made a Cat5e cable with an ethernet plug on one end and a phone plug on the other, and did the same inside, and was pretty sure I had my wires lined up correctly, but I could not get a signal, and the blinking light on the hub did not fill my heart with lots of hope.

So I hunkered down and decided to put a complete Cat5 plug at either end of the heavy-duty phone line and try it that way. And that worked.

Image of phone house

Here is the "phone house." The door had fallen off, the roof was falling apart, and it just looked downright unsightly. Ick.

Image of the phone wiring

After I removed the cover I took an exciting shot of the phone wiring.

Image of wires with cat5 plug

I removed the "house" and then got to work on the phone jack. The phone wires were so thick that I was unable to insert them into the jack like I would Cat5 wire--I had to actually strip the ends of the wires first, and the copper wire itself was still so thick that I still had to use a knife to jam the wires down (the plastic thingys just would not cut it...). Should be thick enough for that ethernet traffic, though, right?

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